“He might as well come there as anywhere,” Mr Murchison replied, ambiguously. “I suppose he has now and then time on his hands?”
“Well, he won’t have it on his hands much longer.”
“He won’t, eh?”
“No, he won’t,” Mrs Murchison almost shook the arm she was attached to. “John, I think you might show a little interest! The man’s going to be married.”
“You don’t say that?” John Murchison’s tone expressed not only astonishment but concern. Mrs Murchison was almost mollified.
“But I do say it. His future wife is coming here to Elgin next month, she and her aunt, or her grandmother, or somebody, and they’re to stay at Dr Drummond’s and be married as soon as possible.”
“Nonsense,” said Mr Murchison, which was his way of expressing simple astonishment.
“There’s no nonsense about it. Advena told me herself this afternoon.”
“Did she seem put out about it?”
“She’s not a girl to show it,” Mrs Murchison hedged, “if she was. I just looked at her. ‘Well,’ I said, ’that’s a piece of news. When did you hear it?’ I said. ’Oh, I’ve known it all the winter!’ says my lady. What I wanted to say was that for an engaged man he had been pretty liberal with his visits, but she had such a queer look in her eyes I couldn’t express myself, somehow.”
“It was just as well left unsaid,” her husband told her, thoughtfully.
“I’m not so sure,” Mrs Murchison retorted. “You’re a great man, John, for letting everything alone. When he’s been coming here regularly for more than a year, putting ideas into the girl’s head—”
“He seems to have told her how things were.”
“That’s all very well—if he had kept himself to himself at the same time.”
“Well, Mother, you know you never thought much of the prospect.”
“No, I didn’t,” Mrs Murchison said. “It wouldn’t be me that would be married to him, and I’ve always said so. But I’d got more or less used to it,” she confessed. “The man’s well enough in some ways. Dear knows there would be a pair of them—one’s as much of a muddler as the other! And anybody can see with half an eye that Advena likes him. It hasn’t turned out as I expected, that’s a fact, John, and I’m just very much annoyed.”
“I’m not best pleased about it myself,” said John Murchison, expressing, as usual, a very small proportion of the regret that he felt, “but I suppose they know their own business.”
Thus, in their different ways, did these elder ones also acknowledge their helplessness before the advancing event. They could talk of it in private and express their dissatisfaction with it, and that was all they could do. It would not be a matter much further turned over between them at best. They would be shy of any affair of sentiment in terms of speech, and from one that affected a member of the family, self-respect would help to pull them the other way. Mrs Murchison might remember it in the list of things which roused her vain indignation; John Murchison would put it away in the limbo of irremediables that were better forgotten. For the present they had reached the church door.